Category Archives: Mormonism

One last “Dad Time”…

mic_6827-copyKinda weird to recognize “lasts” before they happen. Usually we don’t think of something as being our “last time” until after it has happened and then there is a death or something and we don’t get the chance to do it again, whatever “it” is. Not this time. I’ve known this “last” was coming for years.

I hold father’s interviews on the first Sunday of each month. We call them “dad time”. Our family has been holding these “interviews” since Landon, our oldest, was just a baby. We’ve missed a few months over the last eighteen years, but not many. I think we refer to them as “dad time” since “interviews” makes them sound much more formal than they were ever intended to be. Really, one child at a time, we hang out in one of the rooms of our home and just talk. We talk about whatever they want. These sessions don’t last more than about ten minutes each. There’s no lecturing. There’s a lot of listening. It’s been nice. A lot of laughing, as you can imagine if you know us.

Since Landon is the oldest, he’s been in on more of these than any of the other children. We used to lay on our backs in the hallway of our previous home and put our feet up on the walls and talk. He’d sing songs he was learning in church or school. He’d recite the alphabet. We’d laugh a lot. I’d ask him about school, friends, chores, mom. As he got older we’d sit in my room and talk about sports, school responsibilities, friend relationships, girls. We’ve talked about sex, the internet, alcohol, peer pressure, disappointments, triumphs. We’ve talked about serving as a missionary and worshipping in the temple. We’ve talked about marriage. Sometimes we’ve just talked about kind of nothing…just little things that were going on. We’ve done so many that very few of these interviews really stand out.

Once, when Landon was about five or six, he had kind of a letdown birthday moment, right in the middle of the party. Trying to be brave, he didn’t cry in front of the grandparents and cousins, but I could tell he was really sad and disappointed. During a quiet moment in the party, he walked over to me, climbed up on my lap and said, “Dad, could we do a ‘dad time’?” I guess he thought it would help him get through his struggle.

Today is the first Sunday of November, and the last Sunday that Landon will be in our home as a permanent resident. He’ll be off to Mexico in a little over a week, to serve that mission we talked about so many times. So…many…times. Today is our last “dad time” for awhile.

The goal wasn’t to hold eighteen years’ worth of interviews. It was to build a relationship. It was to make it so very clear that he, and each of our children, could come to us anytime and share anything. It was to express love and dedication and support. It was to make it crystal clear that no matter what had taken place over the course of the month–whether there were good choices or bad–Dad was always going to love them and want to hear from them. No matter what.

I’m excited for these next two years. We’ll communicate through letters and emails and a few treasured phone calls or Skype sessions while he is serving in Mexico. We’ll send packages and celebrate success and pray for help when there are the inevitable struggles. What a blessing, for sure.

But I can’t wait until that next “dad time”…

Be encouraging, as always,

BJM

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What is Happening When God Doesn’t Answer…

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The Woman of Canaan, by Michael Angelo Immenraet, 17th century

Typically, when I text someone with a question and I don’t get a response, I assume that either they didn’t see the text or they’re dodging me. I sometimes feel a bit impatient and I suppose there have been moments when I’ve felt a little offended. Same with a voice message. Or a Facebook message. Or en email (for those of you born after 1999, here’s what an email is).

It is a little different when God doesn’t seem to be answering.

Simply, we’ve been invited to ask Him for help through prayer. I know there’s more to it, but that is the bottom line. So, it is often confusing when we feel like there is no answer, and that may feel like it happens regularly. In fact, you may feel as though you’re in the middle of that situation right now. In a lesson I participated in today a thought occurred to me that helped me gain a little understanding into this oft-repeated situation, and it stems from a well-known story in the New Testament.

When Jesus had arrived in the coastal area of Tyre and Sidon (a non-Jewish community) he was met by a Canaanite woman who needed help. Her daughter was in trouble and she was asking Jesus to bless her, to help her, to heal her. Here is what followed her pleading:

“But he answered her not a word…” (Matthew 15:23)

So her prayer was met with…silence. Can you imagine her thoughts?

Did he hear me?

Should I repeat my question?

Is he paying attention to me?

Am I not good enough for him?

Am I not asking correctly?

Am I not using the right language?

Is there some secret code I don’t know?

Is he pre-occupied?

What is his problem?

Does he not love me and my daughter like he seems to love everyone else?

But I wonder if Jesus was teaching. Teaching her. Teaching his disciples. Teaching us. His disciples arrive on the scene (from either close by or far away) and think she should be dismissed. That would’ve discouraged her I’d imagine. I wonder if Jesus, upon hearing the disciples’ dismissive tone smiled a little and thought here’s a good teaching moment for both the woman and for my disciples

He doesn’t respond the disciples’ request either, which I find interesting. He converses with the woman, maybe discerning her faith through conversation as she makes her case that, yes, Jesus wasn’t really there to minister directly to the Gentiles, but that maybe there was still a blessing for her (which she rightly surmises). He may have been helping her strengthen her faith by exercising it. He also may have looked over at the disciples after healing the woman’s daughter as if to say, “We’re not here to dismiss anyone who approaches us in faith. We’re healers. We’re teachers. We’re hear to bless. One day you’ll be in the position I was in today and I don’t want you to be dismissive…”

The point, I suppose, is that Jesus wasn’t doing nothing when he didn’t immediately answer the woman in verse 23. There was always a plan even if it wasn’t obvious to the woman. But there was more to it than the woman probably was aware of.

There is a plan for you, too. Yes, God hears you. He wants to teach you and strengthen your faith. He wants to teach those around you and strengthen their faith. But that takes time. He may answer you “not a word” today. And tomorrow. And this year. But He is working on things, I promise…

Be encouraging…

BJM

She Wasn’t the Only One Who Touched the Savior’s Robe…

Notice how narrow the streets of Jerusalem are in the older parts of the city. And since many of the streets in the ancient parts of town haven’t shrunk, it makes sense that the streets in the Savior’s time would’ve been quite narrow as well. My guess is, walking up and down these streets would’ve been a pretty intimate experience.

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Had you lived in Jerusalem 2000 years ago, you would’ve bumped into others often as you travelled through the winding streets of town. Your shoulders would have jostled people’s carts or you would’ve mistakenly stepped on someone’s sandals. Surely you side-stepped people or brushed up against them and their belongings regularly.

And that idea begs a question: Was the woman with an “issue of blood twelve years” and who reached out to touch the Savior’s clothes as he passed by the only person to touch his clothes that day? If so, why weren’t more people healed that day?

Short answer: Of course she wasn’t the only person to touch Jesus that day. Many people brushed up against the Savior and His clothing before and after she did. Most didn’t even realize that had touched Him. He may not have known that He had been touched by the others. But He knew that she had touched Him.

So, if touching his clothes healed the woman, why weren’t others healed that day as well? Short answer, again: Intention. Faith. Purpose. The woman who was healed touched the Savior as an act of faith. She intentionally reached for Him. She acted in faith and with purpose.

Thousands of people read the scriptures each day, but only a small percentage are “healed”. Countless people will pray this evening, but only a small percentage will be “healed” as a result. Many members of the LDS Church will partake of the sacrament on the upcoming Sabbath but only a small number will feel the cleansing power of the Atonement as part of that sacred ordinance. Many will look like they follow the Savior today, but only a handful of them will reap the blessings of obedience and love. Why? Because only a few will do these things on purpose and with intention.

Principle: When we act in faith with purpose and intention God can bless us in healing, powerful ways. When we go about our day with little intention or purpose, going through the motions, as it were, we miss connecting with Heaven. There is a difference between brushing up against the Savior because the streets are narrow and reaching out to Him with purpose, faith, and intention to obtain needed blessings.

So, today, look up and reach out in faith.

As always, be encouraging…

BJM

 

Why I’m Not So Ready to Give Up My Anxiety Quite Yet…

anxietyLet me start by saying that I don’t think my anxiety is like anyone else’s. Therefore, my experience isn’t meant to be a pattern for anyone. If the following is helpful, wonderful… But it may not be.

I remember thinking that I’d give almost anything to get rid of the anxiety. I would see people who seemed unaffected by turbulent events and I’d just wonder what in the world that felt like. I was pretty envious. No. I was really envious. And sometimes desperate.

But I feel a little different now. If I could magically get rid of my anxiety, maybe I would and maybe I wouldn’t. I think I see a few benefits wrapped in the pounding heart and pitted stomach. Let me explain.

First of all, here’s been my experience (the best I can describe it):

  1. I’d be laying there in bed, sometime after 11:00 PM
  2. I’d start a little “what-if” game about a situation that was unpleasant
  3. It wouldn’t take long before my mind would go to the “worst case scenario”
  4. I’d begin to kind of obsess this worst case and replay it in my mind over and over
  5. The worst case became the probable-scenario
  6. My heart would beat and my mind would race as I tried to figure out how I’d solve this nearly-unsolvable situation and the worry and dread would seep in
  7. I’d look at the clock and think, “Oh great. It’s 3:00 AM and I haven’t slept which means tomorrow is going to be terrible…and also, I have cancer or I’m going to get ax-murdered or my children are going to get abducted” or whatever the worst case scenario was
  8. Knowing that what just happened was irrational and that the thing I was anxious about was not, actually, probably going to happen, my mind would not let go and my heart would continue to race and, therefore, I couldn’t sleep
  9. It would happen again the next night…

And take that list and change it a little and add feelings of being overwhelmed, no desire to be around others, stomach and digestion issues, loss of confidence, etc.

Now, truthfully, much of that has relaxed a bit. I made one visit to a therapist and he was very, very helpful. I changed a few things, physically. Things have definitely eased up in this department, for which I’m very grateful. And I also know that my experience is just mine and how things have eased wouldn’t work for someone else, I suppose. But I still have little episodes here and there. I think I’m just a little better equipped to deal with them than I was five years ago.

With all that said, I can trace a list of blessings back to anxiety. And I don’t think I really want to give these blessings up:

  1. I’m almost never late. In fact, if I have a speaking engagement, I show up 30 minutes early or more (I like to see everything and solve any problems before they become problems, and pace around a little, nervously)
  2. I’m almost always fully prepared for whatever I’m doing. If there is a chance of something going wrong, I prep for it. And my imagination can think up plenty of things that can go wrong so I get really prepared.
  3. I think, a lot, about how others feel. Empathy comes much easier than it did a decade or two ago. I assume others are bothered or stressed or nervous or in some kind of emotional distress. I think maybe I’m a little more kind than I used to be (maybe others would say otherwise)
  4. I’ve learned to listen to my brain and body a little more carefully. I can feel stress and anxiety rising and am better at addressing it. I am better and going to sleep and working out and eating differently.
  5. Being in a good mood is a very “on purpose” thing for me. I choose it more directly now than ever. I know what helps me feel happy and I go do those things. It is kind of a pre-emptive strike against unneeded negativity. That has become like second-nature at this point. I feel genuinely happy almost all of the time.
  6. I’ve established a habit of not worrying about past things. I spend almost no time regretting things, no matter what they are. Learn a lesson and keep moving.
  7. I’ve had just enough experience in life to now see that things generally work out and turn out or get figured out. I’m seeing a pattern. If you address problems, get appropriate help from others, and trust the Lord, the worst case scenario is almost never what happens.
  8. Maybe the most important blessing is that I have practiced relying on the Lord more fully and trusting Him. That seems to help ease anxiety when it is coming.

Honestly, I slept on the couch a few nights ago because my tossing and turning would surely keep my sweetheart awake. I was worried that our basement would flood. I checked the sump pump numerous times, tested it, checked the weather (on three different apps), prayed for a dry basement, and spent a little time imagining what our flooded basement would look like. I talked myself out of it, then worried myself back into it. But then I realized that, due to my anxiety, we had built our home a little higher in the ground than I would have otherwise and we had a sump pump that was working properly. I also decided that a flooded basement would be miserable and maybe expensive, but that there were worse things. And I went to sleep. It was about 1:30 AM, so not too bad…

The anxiety isn’t gone completely. But things are better. I wish I knew how to help someone else, but I’m not sure my list applies to everyone. I do know that there have been blessings that have come because my anxiety hasn’t been taken, removed, healed or any of the other things I used to pray for. In fact, the best description may be this:

And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.

And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord. (Mosiah 24:14-15)

The anxiety isn’t gone, but I feel better about shouldering it. And for that I’m grateful.

Be Encouraging…
BJM

Thomas S. Monson, Maddox Restaurant, and Dinner….

Thomas_S_MonsonSince my grandmother passed away a few weeks ago I’ve been stopping in to see my grandfather each week on my way home from work. I love the visits. I ask him a bunch of questions and he tells stories to answer. I’m learning a lot… For example:

Years ago Grandma and Grandpa were enjoying a meal at Maddox (if you live anywhere near Northern Utah and don’t know Maddox, stop reading, get up from your chair, and drive to Brigham City right now…get this problem solved). I don’t know what Grandpa was eating, but Grandma had ordered seafood. Apparently she wasn’t super experienced with cracking crab legs* open, etc., and was having a little trouble. Grandpa was busy with his meal so he didn’t really realize that Grandma was struggling.

All of a sudden they hear an older gentleman’s voice from behind them. The man said, “I’m sorry and I don’t want to interfere, but I noticed that your wife was having a little trouble opening that crab of hers. Can I help?” With Grandma and Grandpa’s permission, the kind old man gets Grandma’s meal all cracked and ready to eat. My grandparents introduce themselves and thank him and he introduces himself…

“I’m Tom Monson. I was in Logan speaking to a group of young people and I’m heading back to Salt Lake, but I always like to stop and eat at Maddox. Again, hope I’m not interfering…”

An Apostle of the Lord had cracked open my grandmother’s crab legs so she could eat it more easily.

It wasn’t a big deal, but I’m afraid that if I noticed someone struggling to crack their crab legs open, I wouldn’t think to go and “interfere”…and I’d miss a chance to serve.

I’m thankful for President Monson’s example and willingness to help others, even in small ways.

Be Encouraging…

BJM

*There was some question about whether Maddox has ever served crab. Great question. So I contacted Maddox and inquired. Here was their reply: “Brian, Crab legs are not a regular menu item for us but we have ‘specialed’ them in the past.  We usually run crab legs or lobster specials on holidays (valentine’s day, mother’s day, etc) so it is a possibility.”Thomas_S_Monson

From the Other Side of the Veil: “Please Try and Help Us…”

Screen Shot 2014-12-23 at 8.27.29 PMI had an interesting, though not-as-dramatic-as-it-is-going-to-sound, experience on Saturday…

I had spent a week and a half planning to do family history work. But projects got in the way, and nothing came of it. Finally, on Saturday, I determined to sit down and just do something. Anything, really.

So I spent about three hours browsing around my family tree, trying to recall who I was last working on. With some good luck and searching, I found an individual who hadn’t really been attached to our tree. Then I found part of his family. They weren’t direct-line ancestors, but more like direct-line and over one branch and back down a limb ancestors. As I researched this little family, I happened upon an obscure-ish book about their family’s ancestry (on Google Books). It seemed like such good fortune until I realized that there was really a lot of tedious and kind of boring work ahead of me, recording names and dates and places, which took the wind out of my sails a little.

I had already been at the computer for three hours. My back was stiff, as were my legs. I had other more relaxing things I wanted to do. So I decided to push back from the computer and take a break…a break that might not end for days…

As I was wandering away from the computer, I had a thought. It wasn’t a voice, really. It was barely an impression. But the thought quietly came into my mind that seemed to share this:

I know this is boring work, but please try to endure it and find us. Please be ok with working hard to find us. Please don’t stop just because this is hard…

I didn’t know where the thought came from, and in fact, I didn’t really pause and ponder and wonder much. I just walked back over to the computer and kept working. I wasn’t really trying to be obedient because I didn’t think the thought came from anywhere special. I thought that I had just thought it, and maybe I did. Maybe I didn’t. I still don’t know for sure.

But over the next hour I found a number of previously unknown individuals who fit in our family and who had not had the opportunity to accept (or reject) the ordinances of the templeActually, it was one of the most genealogically productive hours that I’ve had in recent years. I’m really glad I stayed at the computer…

Here’s a small summary of what I’ve learned:

  1. Bringing people to Christ is hard work, whether on this side of the veil or the other.
  2. Bringing people to Christ requires patience on our part, whether on this side of the veil or the other.
  3. When someone says, “I’m not really interested in or good at genealogy or missionary work or helping the poor” they don’t realize that most people probably aren’t, but if we leave helping people up to only those that are gifted at it, not much will get done.
  4. Being worried about other people and really putting forth a lot of effort to help them is part of making your way back to Heavenly Father, and it is ok if it is a little hard sometimes. That is the only way that our experience will line up, even in some small degree, with the Savior’s experience helping us.

You and I can do hard/tedious/boring/frustrating/discouraging things…especially when it will bless someone else…

Be Encouraging…

BJM

Why “Tithing” isn’t So Boring After all…

tithingTithing is a boring topic. I know. I get it. But there are two not-so-boring principles associated with tithing that have had an effect on my attitude about giving it…

In the last few months of study, I’ve come across numerous people who have quite a problem with tithing in the LDS Church. That seems natural. No one wants to give money away, at least not at a rate of 10% of their increase. I’ve also read of a few people who don’t like the modern day church of Jesus Christ’s interpretation of “tithing”. So be it. That’s fine. But I want to take a second a discuss two blessings that come from faithful paying tithes. These blessings are either under-discussed, under-analyzed, or under-appreciated. Just so we’re on the same page, take a moment and re-read Malachi 3:10.

Ok, here we go…

First of all, faithfully giving an honest tithe opens the “windows of heaven”.

What can Heavenly Father send through a window? Anything He wants. But it seems as though windows are associated with light coming into a home or an expended view of the bigger picture. Analyzed, I think the most important blessing to come through the windows of heaven is revelation (or “impressions” or “insight” or “spiritual nudges”, etc.). When we faithfully offer a tithe to the Lord, our ability to receive personal revelation–in many forms–increases.

Secondly, faithfully giving an honest tithe puts you in a position where you can receive a blessing that you don’t have room to receive, and therefore you are in a position to bless the lives of others more effectively and efficiently.

Here’s what I love. Almost all of us would like to be considered an instrument in the hands of the Lord more than we are. We would like to be utilized. Faithfully offering a tithe puts us in a position to receive blessings at a rate that overfills our cups, so to speak, and those extra blessings have to go somewhere. They have to spill over the sides of our cups and go somewhere. My guess is that they would flow to family, friends, neighbors, and strangers if we allow it.

Please notice that money has not been mentioned in this post. When we focus on associating a measurable financial blessing with being a tithe-payer, we put ourselves in a position to easily miss the more important and available blessings. Looking for the money may block our view of the blessings we have access to. Money may be part of the blessings sent through the windows of heaven at a rate that causes overflow, but looking for that blessing first could be detrimental to us being able to “count our many blessings”…

When all is said and done, our family feels like we’ve received heavenly assistance as we’ve tried to cheerfully, faithfully, consistently pay an honest and full tithe.

Be Encouraging…

BJM